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The Emerald Award winners raise the bar for individuals, organizations and companies across the province once again

From Slave Lake’s landfill to a breeding ground for endangered ferrets, this year’s Alberta Emerald Foundation’s eco heroes have emerged from some unexpected places

Aug 1, 2012

For 21 years the Alberta Emerald Foundation has been working to recognize, celebrate and inspire environmental excellence in Alberta. This year, 13 Emerald Awards were presented in 11 categories to individuals, non-profit organizations and to businesses. Taken together, they are a showcase of remarkably progressive green thinking and provide leadership to others in this province and around the world. For more on the Emerald Foundation and past winners, visit emeraldfoundation.ca

Larry Simpson turned his training as a land man for the energy industry into a career in conservation
Individual Commitment: Park Life
Executive Mat Service is cleaning up the print industry with its innovative recycling program
Small Business: It all comes out in the wash
The University of Calgary’s solar-powered house offers a new product for aboriginal communities and a new step towards energy conservation
School or classroom: A Home for All Seasons
Before Slave Lake could rebuild, Tom Moore had to clear – and recycle – the rubble
Individual Commitment: Clean Slate

Government Institution: City of Edmonton
Project: A Decade of Leadership to Pioneer New Approaches to Conserve Urban Biodiversity

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The City of Edmonton has emerged as a global leader for the conservation of urban biodiversity by creating a dedicated office in 2002 with a mandate to find ways to conserve urban biodiversity and minimize conflict in the land development process. The city’s Office of Biodiversity works with other departments to ensure that natural areas are protected, restored and managed, and that opportunities exist for community members to be engaged in the stewardship of natural areas.

In the last 10 years, the office has developed new tools to design the city with biodiversity in mind and to engage citizens in meaningful ways. In the process, it has attracted interest from around the world. Because of this strategic change, Edmontonians now have more than 4,000 hectares of protected natural areas, anchored by the North Saskatchewan River valley and the ravines that feed into it, but also including more than 60 natural areas outside the river valley.

Large Business: ConocoPhillips Canada
ProjectProject: Phytoremediation of Petroleum Hydrocarbons

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Phytoremediation is the treatment of environmental contamination through the use of plants that are able to contain, degrade or eliminate such things as metals, pesticides and hydrocarbons. ConocoPhillips Canada’s phytoremediation project uses a selection of grasses to retain moisture and break up the soil. This allows microbes in the soil to degrade the hydrocarbons. The process is particularly useful in remote areas that have limited access to equipment and landfills. By treating soil on-site, there is no need for excavating, trucking and off-site disposal, which are carbon-intensive activities and transfer untreated material to landfills.

When phytoremediation is used, remediation and reclamation occur simultaneously. This allows ConocoPhillips to return leased land to landowners relatively quickly and to better protect groundwater quality at remote sites. “This has been very exciting,” says Ole Mrklas, remediation co-ordinator at ConocoPhillips. “Now we have an opportunity to bring this to Albertans, to Canada, to the industry and other folks that might be interested.”

Non-Profit Association: Centre for Conservation Research, Calgary Zoological Society
Project: Husky Energy Endangered Species Program

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Since 2003, the Husky Energy Endangered Species Program (HEESP) has been an integral part of the Calgary Zoo’s efforts to reintroduce species into historical ranges where their numbers have become critically low or where a species has become locally extinct. In 2009, the HEESP helped to bring the black-footed ferret back to Canadian soil after a 70-year absence. The program has reintroduced 800 burrowing owls into the grasslands of B.C. and advanced the breeding program for the endangered whooping crane. It has also helped species as diverse as the northern leopard frog, the swift fox and the Vancouver Island ferret. “The challenges of recovering species are immense, not only in terms of preserving current populations, but also in restoring what has been lost,” says Dr. Axel Moehrenschlager, the head of the zoo’s Centre for Conservation Research. “The significant advancements made by the HEESP can be credited to Husky Energy’s long-term and generous financial commitment.”

Youth: Tyson Bohnerty
Project: Neighbourhood Environmental Stewardship

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Lethbridge’s Tyson Bohnert, 15, has long been a leader in raising environmental awareness in his hometown. For six years, he hosted the Canyon Neighbourhood Nature Club, the first club of its kind in Canada. Neighbourhood nature clubs are led by children and encourage kids to learn about and care for their local environment. Bohnert has also been involved with the Southern Alberta Youth for Environmental Educators, the University of Lethbridge Campus Roots Garden, Southern Alberta Permaculture and O.U.R. Eco-village, an internationally recognized leader in permaculture. Bohnert comes from an environmentally active family (his father was a nominee for an Emerald Award this year, too) and has now come full circle and is helping his six-year-old sister create and host a neighbourhood nature club of her own.

Emerald Challenge: Oil Sands Bob Mitchell
Project: Oil Sands Leadership Initiative (OSLI) – Innovation and Advancement for Sustainable Oil Sands Development

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A key player in Canadian energy policy for more than 25 years, Bob Mitchell’s influence is far-reaching in industry, academia and government. In early phases of leadership and management, Mitchell helped create performance measures, a field in which he remains a leader. On top of his regular duties as senior director of climate change for ConocoPhillips Canada, Mitchell unified a small group of major oil sands developers in April 2010 to form the Oil Sands Leadership Initiative (OSLI). This collaborative initiative, which now includes ConocoPhillips Canada, Nexen Inc., Shell Energy, Statoil, Suncor and Total, works to adopt innovative and sustainable practices, thereby raising the performance of the entire sector.

Public Education and Outreach: Parks Canada
Project: Waterton ESI Camp

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The Waterton Ecosystem Investigators Camp is a three-day overnight outdoor education camp run by Parks Canada and based in Waterton Lakes National Park. It gives Grade 5 students the chance to be immersed in nature and learn how the different parts of the ecosystem, including people, have shaped the landscape.

With the collaboration of the local Kainai and Piikani First Nations, the camp hosts urban, regional and local students, providing them with a connection to nature and encouraging them to take action. Students learn about the ecological importance of whitebark pine and prairie fescue ecosystems, as well as issues facing the southern Alberta landscape. Park staff deliver the program to about 450 students in the spring and fall.

The camp was developed as a pilot for a larger five-year project called Restoring Terrestrial Ecosystems Together and was held in the fall of 2010 and spring of 2011. Parks Canada, with support from the W. Garfield Weston Foundation, will continue to deliver this popular program through 2013.

Shared Footprints Award: Foothills Landscape Management Forum
Berland Smoky Regional Access Development Plan

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The Berland Smoky area, in the foothills between Hinton and Grande Cache, is a beautiful area with abundant wildlife. It is also rich in natural resources, including timber, energy and minerals. To address industry’s increasing demand for road access into the area, while also accommodating environmental and recreational uses, the Berland Smoky Regional Access Development (RAD) Plan was developed by government and the Foothills Landscape Management Forum (FLMF). The forum is a partnership of the Aseniwuche Winewak Nation in Grande Cache and more than a dozen forestry and energy companies. Drawing on work completed since 2005 by the FLMF, the new plan manages the industrial footprint, provides guidance for primary and secondary access routing, remains transparent through a monitoring and reporting program, conforms to integrated land management principles and allows for new policy direction. The plan was endorsed by the provincial government in December 2011.

Community Group: Evergreen Centre for Resource Excellence and Innovation
Project: Evergreen Centre for Resource Excellence and Innovation

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Founded in 2009 and located five minutes south of Grande Prairie, the Evergreen Centre for Resource Excellence and Innovation is a hands-on collaboration involving community members, industry and government that is working on effective, cost-efficient ways to reduce the environmental impact of resource development. Whether it’s studying the best conditions under which to replant trees, working towards water-crossing solutions that cause the least disturbance to the stream bed or reducing the impact of access roads, the centre has helped build trust between industry and the communities in which it operates.

The centre sits on five-and-a-half hectares of forested terrain that is an effective stand-in for much of the land on which the oil sands are being developed. In February of 2011, for instance, the Canadian Oil Sands Innovation Alliance and the Grande Prairie Regional College planted 600 black spruce seedlings in wetlands on the property. The 94 per cent survival rate led to 40,000 trees being planted in similar areas in the Lower Athabasca Region. AV

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